Sunday, February 4, 2007

Stevie Joe's Corporate Follies

I have to laugh whenever I hear a politician say that we need to run government more like a business, or whenever someone advocates privatizing some government function. The underlying assumption is that business runs more efficiently and with less bureaucracy. Having worked both in the corporate world and for government, I can say that's a bunch of crap.

As you might recall from an earlier post, I was born poor and stupid. Of course, I am now a damn genius, but there was a point in between when I was smart enough to get a job with a major multi-national corporation but dumb enough to take it.

One of my primary responsibilities at this MNC was to draw up the Strategic Plan for my product group. This entailed devising a detailed market analysis, projecting market trends, and forecasting sales. It was a big report, maybe a hundred pages or so, and it took months to prepare. When I was done, it went to my boss for review. He would request a few changes, like font sizes and such, which I would make so he could send it on to his boss. At each level of management review, there would be requests for more changes, but they were generally meaningless. It was all stuff like colors for the pie charts. Still, the Plan would go up and down the management ladder for several months.

At some point, a wise ass manager would decide to change my sales forecast. This was not based on any market data but rather the belief that it you force your staff to accept a goal higher than they think they can achieve, they might do better than they otherwise would. It was stupid, plain and simple, and it was usually accompanied by profanity. As in, "$50 million is complete bullshit! I want that forecast changed to $60 million by tomorrow morning or it will mean someone's job!"

Anyway, when it was all said and done, when all the fonts and chart colors were set, and when the forecast reflected some moron's management philosophy, the Strategic Plan was marked "Company Confidential" and placed into a locked cabinet where nobody was allowed to look at it. Not even me, the guy who wrote it.

I asked about the wisdom of locking away our Strategic Plan. I was told that the corporation could not risk it falling into the hands of our competition. I then asked about the risk of it falling into the hands of those who need to implement the plan. I was told that I was not being a team player.

I heard this often. Another time is when our department got us a new Mission Statement. The top managers went away for two weeks in Montana where they stayed in cabins, went whitewater rafting, did teambuilding exercises, and brainstormed about the Mission Statement. When they returned, there were several months of high-level meetings to massage and refine the Mission Statement.

One day, management was finally ready to reveal their glorious new Mission Statement. They called a meeting of our entire department, about 300 people. They had a big ceremony and unveiled a banner hung high over the factory floor that read:

We will leverage our core competencies to fully realize our optimal market penetration while maximizing customer value.

Of course, this was just about the stupidest thing I had ever heard. So, I raised my hand in front of all 300 people and asked, "How is this Mission Statement different from that of a donut shop?"

I was told that I was not being a team player.

Maximizing your reading value,
Stevie Joe Parker

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